Monthly Archives: November 2013

Why Dean Smith is the Greatest

“If you treat every situation as a life-and-death matter, you’ll die a lot of times.”
– Dean Smith

Dean Smith’s decline saddens me to no end. I rarely read about him these days. It pains me to no end that this man who had such great attention to detail has it no more.

But yesterday, the day he was honored by President Obama, Phil Ford was on the radio talking about Coach Smith. Phil is my all-time favorite Tar Heel, so I listened a few minutes before I had to turn it. But I listened long enough to hear Phil give his opinion:

“The reason I love Coach Smith is he made you want to be a better person, to always do the right thing.”

Phil said it much better than I could.

I’ve written occasionally about Coach Smith. Here’s some of what I wrote in March 2010:

In this season of misery for Tar Heel fans, I find myself missing Dean Smith more than ever. Not so much because he would have coached a few more wins out of the team (although I do think that), but because El Deano had a singular quality that Roy lacks: He could make me feel better almost immediately about a loss.

Dean never seemed to hate losing the way I do (and for that matter, Roy does). He’d always be pretty even-keeled when he’d talk to Woody after the game on the Tar Heel Sports Network. And he’d always point out someone’s effort or something the Heels had done well despite losing. I couldn’t help but feel better. Particularly if we’d lost a close game and played well or made a good comeback, it would feel sometimes almost as though we’d won. Moreover, he would always have some reason why he had screwed up to cause us to lose.

To me, he is the greatest coach of all time, and it isn’t even close. And he is a better person than a coach. That’s why former players have been so loyal over the years. Other schools don’t have that, and I appreciate it.

I also appreciate Dean for changing my life. I started following the Heels in 1967. That was about the time when Dean recruited Charles (as he always called him) Scott. Charlie Scott became my favorite Tar Heel (he’s still in my top five). Why did that matter? Because Charlie Scott was the first black player at UNC. Dean opened my eyes and affected the way I saw race after that. I later learned how Dean campaigned for equal rights and freedom, and I loved him even more.

I’m glad we have Roy, but I really miss Dean.

 “What to do with a mistake – recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.”
– Dean Smith




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